In “The Invitation” it’s the hosts -- and we -- who overstay our welcome.
BY ELLEN WERNECKE
Everyone’s got a friend like Marian, the sharp-tongued shrew who dominates the first half of Brian Parks’ play “The Invitation,” a world premiere from Word Monger Productions. Shouting and shrill from almost the very moment we meet her, Marian (played to perfection by Katie Honaker) has no problem voicing opinions for which “contrarian” is not quite strong enough a word, like “Retarded people are depressing” and “What’s to see in South America?” The dinner party she and meek husband Dave (David Calvitto) are hosting is ostensibly in honor of their friend Steph (Leslie Farrell), but everyone pays attention to Marian -- at first attempting to debate her, and then letting an awkward silence fall after her jabs at vegetarians and volunteer work. Yet when later one character tells another, “She wasn’t always like that,” it has the ring of truth: No one wants to believe all along he has been friends with a sexist classist racist.
But the George-and-Martha relation between Dave and Marian can only go so far, especially when she turns to attacking his book which has been turned down by the publisher where he works. (“Apparently novels are supposed to be entertaining,” she sniffs in one of many, many roarers delivered by Honaker and others.) About the specifics of the shift we will only say, the gun on the mantelpiece is a literary reference dropped amid the crossfire of wits early in the show, and is developed with gore to spare.) The place where it lands is where “The Invitation” takes a turn into outright unpleasantness in the “Funny Games” mode, in which we are asked to question whether we were tolerating the torture of the people onstage to the point where one is pressed to action. But this turn of events dehumanizes Dave in order to justify what has just happened, and director John Clancy allows Calvitto to unleash his inner Joker a little too much. Still, even with the coda, which is complete nonsense, “The Invitation” is a funny, nasty little piece of work.
”The Invitation,” which also stars Paul Urcioli and Eva van Dok, runs through Sept. 27 at the Ohio Theatre, 66 Wooster Street. For tickets and more information, visit WordMongerProductions.com.
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